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By John J. Fitzgerald

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One newspaper noted that Laird had “boom[ed] around the countryside,” averaging more than a speech a day, covering every community in the ten-county Seventh District twice and eating at as many as three church picnics in a single afternoon. ”29 The voters didn’t hold his hair loss against Laird; his victory margin was two to one. The Eisenhower-Nixon ticket also swept to a landslide victory but with coattails so short that a Democratic House and Senate were returned to Washington. 30 Joe McCarthy had reached the zenith of his influence and also plummeted to his exile from power during the first two years of the Eisenhower administration.

He was assigned to three committees—education, veterans, and labor. He immersed himself                     in the work and quickly rose to prominence. One measure of his power came in  when Laird twice faced down Sen. Joe McCarthy and beat him both times. In the first case, it was in Laird’s capacity as the chairman of the state Young Republicans during their convention. Behind the scenes, there was a struggle for who would be elected at the convention as state chairman.

The historical background that led to that critical primary is important in understanding Laird’s political background and the unique Wisconsin brand of Republicanism. Many historians believe the Republican party was born in a little white schoolhouse in central Wisconsin, when fifty-four of the town of Ripon’s one hundred registered voters gathered in March  to fight slavery. 22 Disaffected Whigs came to the meeting, tired of their own party’s compromises on the issue. 23 A year after the Republican Party was formed in Ripon, Robert Marion La Follette was born in the small town of Primrose, southeast of Ripon.

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